The Wires

Public Service Announcement

September 9: The New York Times reports that Equifax is doing nothing to protect you if hackers to its system gained access to your personal information. In fact, Equifax has a plan to make money on your misfortune. Reporter Ron Lieber has some suggestions about what you can do to protect yourself from Equifax & its hackers. Equifax is providing no good way to find out if you've been affected; it is apparently just trying to hook as many suckers as it can into getting a "free" account, but you can bet it won't stay free. Read the story if you'd like to feel helpless & enraged.

On Request:

David Remnick of the New Yorker remembers its publisher S.I. NewHouse, Jr.

Janet Malcolm of the New Yorker profiles Rachel Maddow. Mrs. McC: Maddow was right the first time about the canisters.

The New Yorker has links to Lillian Ross's stories here. The New Yorker is subscription-only but allows non-subscribers to read six stories a month, so if you're not a subscriber, you may want to open the page in a private window.

Mrs. McCrabbie: When the Emmy folks are looking to give out prizes next year, they should think Jimmy Kimmel.

Some highlights of the Emmys:

... To watch the whole monologue, go to YouTube & type something like "stephen colbert monologue emmys". There are quite a few pirated copies up right now, but CBS will certainly take them down, so none will be posted here. The Washington Post has some of the transcript here.

Former star of "The Apprentice" finally gets his Emmy:

Kim Weeks in the Washington Post: "Hillary Clinton revealed this week she turned to an esoteric breathing technique popular among yogis to heal from her devastating election loss.... By bringing this kind of breath work into the mainstream, Clinton has introduced the world to a practice that has both proven mental and physical health benefits.... In nadi shodhana, the process of literally alternating breathing between the right and left nostril also helps balance the right and left brain, the right and left lungs, and the right and left sides of the body. Alternate nostril breathing has been shown to slow down a rapid heart rate and to lower blood pressure." ...

... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Okay, I tried it. I can do the left nostril but not the right. That stressed me out.

Hill: "Melissa McCarthy brought home an Emmy this weekend for her memorable impression of former press secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live. The actress won an Emmy for best comedy actress on a comedy series at the Emmy’s creative arts awards Sunday, according to the Associated Press. The awards are a precursor to the main show next weekend." Spicer panned McCarthy's impression.

New York Times: "Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, plans to step down from the magazine in December after a 25-year tenure, leaving the role that established him as a ringmaster of the Hollywood, Washington and Manhattan power elite. Mr. Carter’s influence stretched from the magazine and entertainment worlds into finance, literature and politics, where President Trump, a target of Mr. Carter’s poison pen for decades, still bristles at the mention of his name. One of the few remaining celebrity editors in an industry whose fortunes have faded, Mr. Carter — famous for double-breasted suits, white flowing hair and a seven-figure salary — is a party host, literary patron, film producer and restaurateur whose cheeky-yet-rigorous brand of reporting influenced a generation of journalists.... Spy[a magazine Carter co-founded,] took special glee in attacking Mr. Trump, whom the magazine memorably deemed a 'short-fingered vulgarian.' (The insult stuck: just last week, Mr. Trump referred to his 'too big' hands during a visit to Houston.)"

New York Times: "Tronc, the publisher of The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, announced on Monday that it had acquired The Daily News, the nearly 100-year-old tabloid that for decades set the city’s agenda with its gossip, sports and city coverage. The deal represents the end of an era for The News, which was long a voice for New York’s working class. It may also signal the end of the political influence of its owner, the real estate magnate Mortimer B. Zuckerman, who often used the paper’s bold, front-page headline — known as 'the wood' — for commentary about candidates and politicians, locally and nationally."

Guardian (Sept. 4): "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a third child, Kensington Palace has announced. The announcement was made as the duchess was forced to cancel an engagement on Monday because of extreme morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum."

Constant Comments

Wednesday
Sep172014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 18, 2014

David Jackson of USA Today: "During his remarks at the congressional picnic [last night, President] Obama thanked lawmakers for backing his new counterterrorism plan against the Islamic State, and asked for cooperation on other issues":

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "A House divided along unusual and unpredictable lines voted Wednesday to authorize the training and arming of Syrian rebels to confront the militant group Islamic State, backing President Obama after he personally pleaded for support. The 273-to-156 vote was over a narrow military measure with no money attached, but it took on outsize importance and was infused with drama. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, actively and strongly backed the legislation, and both sought to portray it as a modest measure.... Republican and Democratic vote-counting operations said they would not press for 'yes' on what they termed a 'vote of conscience.'" The Senate hopes to pass it as soon as Thursday....

     ... "'The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission,' President Obama said Wednesday in addressing troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. 'I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq'":

... NBC News: "Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in an exclusive interview with NBC News' Ann Curry, denounced ISIS for its savagery but also branded the U.S.-led coalition against the terror group as 'ridiculous.' Speaking from the presidential palace in Tehran ahead of his visit to the United Nations, Rouhani questioned President Obama's decision to go after ISIS with airstrikes." With video. ...

... Bob Gates Is Still Sounding Off. Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday said the U.S. will need troops on the ground to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and spoke out against President Barack Obama's contention that the U.S. aims to degrade and destroy the group."

... AND, It Should Go without Saying, So Is Ted Cruz. Adam Weinstein of Gawker: "Ted Cruz, Princeton '92 and creepy bathrobe enthusiast, is really tired of all these nancyboys who run the military, insisting that there must be political reconciliation and trustbuilding to forge stability in Iraq. Is he gonna have to go over there and bloody up some jihadi ass himself? Whilst comparing hair-care notes with Sean Hannity last night, the grandstanding GOP senator said today's military is not so much an elite fighting force as a bunch of bleeding heart social workers...." Read the whole post. Weinstein gets serious & emphasizes how dangerous Cruz's loose language is.

Dana Milbank: Trey "Gowdy, a former prosecutor, was known for theatrical outbursts in hearings, rank partisanship and a fascination with Benghazi conspiracy theories.... But when the South Carolina Republican chaired his [Benghazi select committee']s first public hearing Wednesday, Gowdy did something completely unexpected: He played it straight.... Gowdy adopted as the theme of his first hearing an idea suggested by one of the committee's Democrats, Adam Schiff of California: How well the State Department has been implementing recommendations to prevent future attacks on U.S. diplomats like the one in Libya two years ago that killed four Americans.... Over three hours, there were so many thank-yous it could have been the Oscars." CW: Stay tuned.

Edward-Issac Dovere of Politico: "Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in a behind-the-scenes struggle with the White House, congressional Democrats and Washington insiders who have lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most. Long-simmering doubts about her have reached a peak after two recent public flubs: criticizing the White House's handling of the border crisis and comparing the tea party to wife beaters." CW: I don't think this is more of the usual Politico breathless speculation. I think Wasserman Schultz is screwing up.

Kendall Breitman of Politico: "Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that it was a 'poor choice of words' for him to use the term 'Shylocks' in a recent speech. On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League's national director,Abraham Foxman, had said the word 'Shylocks' promoted an anti-Semitic stereotype.... 'There is no truer friend of the Jewish people than Joe Biden,' Foxman said in a news release.... He added, 'Clearly there was no ill-intent here, but Joe and I agreed that perhaps he needs to bone up on his Shakespeare.'"

iPhones for Criminals. Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police -- even when they have a search warrant -- taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information. The move, announced with the publication of a new privacy policy tied to the release of Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, amounts to an engineering solution to a legal quandary...."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic: "On Wednesday, Arizona Cardinals backup running back Jonathan Dwyer became the latest NFL player to be arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. Phoenix police arrested Dwyer, 25, on suspicion of aggravated assault on his 27-year-old wife and on suspicion of aggravated assault involving his 1-year-old son, a police spokesman said. The woman suffered a broken bone." Via Margaret Hartmann.

Suicide (Or Murder) by Rented Gun. Adam Weinstein reports: "A new video report by Fusion's Kimberly Brooks highlights the difficulties in preventing gun deaths at rental ranges, where shooters don't need criminal or mental health background checks to take a variety of loaded weapons to the firing line."

So Help Me God. U. S. Air Force: "The Air Force has instructed force support offices across the service to allow both enlisted members and officers to omit the words 'So help me God' from enlistment and officer appointment oaths if an Airman chooses." ...

... Abby Ohlheiser of the Washington Post: "After an airman was unable to complete his reenlistment because he omitted the part of a required oath that states 'so help me God,' the Air Force changed its instructions for the oath. Following a review of the policy by the Department of Defense General Counsel, the Air Force will now permit airmen to omit the phrase, should they so choose. That change is effective immediately, according to an Air Force statement." See also "God News" in Sunday's Commentariat for more context. Among other things, requiring the oath appears to be unconstitutional. But that doesn't always seem to matter ...

... Dahlia Lithwick explains why Constitution Day -- which was yesterday, in case you missed it, as I did -- "might just be the most American holiday of all." Also, Constitution Day is more than likely unconstitutional. God bless America.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. CW: A few weeks ago, a site called Our Bad Media claimed it had found more incidences in which Fareed Zakaria plagiarized the work of others. However, the Washington Post & CNN did reviews & made a pretty good case that the cited passages did not constitute plagiarism. The other day, Our Bad Media brought new charges. Dylan Byers of Politico: "This week, I conducted a review of the reports to determine whether the instances they cited truly qualified as plagiarism. I also asked two journalism ethics experts -- Robert Drechsel..., director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Kelly McBride, the vice president for academic programs of The Poynter Institute -- to review the reports. They came to the same conclusion I did: Fareed Zakaria plagiarized.... There are different degrees of plagiarism, to be sure. Case by case, the examples here qualify more as violations or misdemeanors than serious crimes.... But taken together, they show an undeniable pattern of behavior." ...

... Senate Race

Plagiarism, Senate Candidate-Style. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Large portions of an economic plan released by Oregon Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby appear to be heavily plagiarized from multiple sources, including one section that copies word-for-word from a plan put out by Republican Sen. Rob Portman a month earlier. Likewise, portions of Wehby's plan also copy sections nearly-verbatim from the economic growth plan of a 2012 congressional candidate named Gary DeLong and a survey from Karl Rove's group, Crossroads.... At no point in Wehby's plan is attribution given." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "What makes this striking is that Wehby is a practicing physician.... In her defense, though, the stuff in both Crossroads' poll and in Wehby’s plan is so incredibly hackneyed, such a tired assortment of conservative health policy pet rocks ... that use of the very same words isn't that surprising. It's not like any original thinking is going into this, so why use any original writing to describe it?"

Congressional Races

Gail Collins: Mark Sanford is running for re-election to his House seat unopposed! CW: I'm thinking Sanford would make a great running mate for Li'l Randy. It would be the funniest ticket ever.

Peter Beinart of the Atlantic: "... the security moms are back. And as a result, the levee Democrats were counting on to protect against a GOP hurricane is starting to crumble.... According to a CNN poll last week, women are 18 points more likely [than men] to say they are 'very' or 'somewhat' worried that someone in their family will be the victim of terrorism.... As in 2002, this anxiety about foreign threats is hurting Democrats.... In August, white women favored a Democratic Congress by four points. Now they favor a Republican Congress by eight." ...

... Steve M. "I guess it's 1972 all over again and Barack Obama is George McGovern, and it seems he can't even fight his way out of it. He was just supposed to keep us all safe. Two nasty deaths and it's all over. (How many were hanged on that bridge in Fallujah eight months before Bush's 2004 election victory? How may died in the embassy annex bombing in Lebanon six weeks before Ronald Reagan's [1984] landslide victory?)"

Presidential Election

Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill: "Emails sent by liberal activists and obtained by The Hill reveal significant dissatisfaction with Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.... The Hill reviewed hundreds of emails from a progressive members only Google group called the 'Gamechanger Salon,' a forum where nearly 1,500 activists, strategists and journalists debate issues and craft messaging campaigns. The group includes prominent Democrats, Sierra Club officials, journalists who work for The Huffington Post and The Nation magazine, senior union representatives, leaders at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and the president of NARAL."

Mario Trujillo: "Vice President Biden touched on a number of Democratic campaign themes during a speech in Iowa on Wednesday to help kick off a nationwide tour for a group of Catholic nuns traveling the country to register voters."

The Funniest Presidential Candidate. Rand Paul Is at It Again. David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: Sen. Rand Paul (RTP-Ky.) charged that a recent Post story which highlighted his flip-flops, was "full of inaccuracies." He called it a "hit job," in an interview with the winger publication The Federalist. However, neither Paul nor any of his staff members will reveal what the inaccuracies in the hit job might be. The Post tried several times to get the Paul camp to identify the "inaccuracies," but they refused to do so & would not schedule Paul himself for an interview with the post. "In his interview with The Federalist, Paul also criticized The Post for not providing a response from him or his political team." CW: The link to Fahrenthold's piece is messed up. I'll check again later to see if the Post has straightened it out. Update: Still messed up, but if you give it time, it will load, albeit with an "inappropriate descriptor." ...

Here's the problem. He [Sen. John McCain] did meet with ISIS, and had his picture taken, and didn't know it was happening at the time. -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in an interview with The Daily Beast, Sept. 16

I can't believe Rand is still repeating this stuff, which came from a Hezbollah newspaper in Lebanon! He's getting his information from Hezbollah. It's outrageous.... I don't know if Rand is dishonest or misinformed. -- Sen. John McCain, in response to Paul's charge, to the Daily Beast

Olivia Nuzzi of the Daily Beast: "In an interview with The Daily Beast on Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul discussed the war against ISIS -- and in doing so, repeated a thoroughly debunked rumor about John McCain palling around with the Islamic extremist group. Needless to say, a certain famously hot-tempered five-term senator and former presidential candidate was not at all amused.... Pictures of McCain meeting with members of the Free Syrian Army -- who have historically opposed ISIS -- have been seized upon by conspiracy theorists and McCain skeptics...."

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "There are days when we regret we are limited to just Four Pinocchios. This is one of those days. There is zero evidence that any of the men that McCain met with in Syria are linked to the Islamic State. One can have a legitimate debate about whether it is worth arming the Syrian rebels without resorting to innuendo, fake news reports and invented facts."

Constant Weader: On September 3, a reader sent me these pictures. It took me about a half-hour to debunk them because at that time, no legitimate news organization would even address them. On September 12, Rick Gladstone of the New York Times addressed the false stories & related photos of McCain supposedly palling around with terrorists. McCain should challenge Paul (no, no, John, not to a duel!) on the Senate floor to apologize for spreading the story. BTW, under appropriate circumstances, there's nothing wrong with meeting with terrorists or potential terrorists.

Beyond the Beltway

Robert Patrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson testified ... for almost four hours Tuesday in front of the St. Louis County grand jury investigating his shooting Aug. 9 of Michael Brown, a source with knowledge of the investigation said Wednesday. Wilson was not obligated to appear, and also has spoken with St. Louis County investigators twice and federal investigators once, the source said. The source said Wilson was 'cooperative.'"

Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "A Wisconsin Republican dropped out of the race for a seat on the state assembly on Tuesday after he admitted that he made offensive comments about gay and black people on social media, according to The Gazette. Jacob Dorsey, a 19-year-old candidate challenging Democratic state Rep. Deb Kolste, apologized last week for referring to gay people as 'fags' in a tweet.... In comments on YouTube videos, he used the words 'fags' and 'niggers.'... Dorsey withdrew from the race and will return to school at Brigham Young University-Idaho, from which he took a semester off to campaign for state assembly."

The New Yorker Website main page has pieces by (1) Adam Gopnik & (2) John Cassidy on the Scottish independence vote.

Grant Duncan on the New Zealand parliamentary elections: "We're in the final few days of an election campaign that has had it all -- comedy, conspiracy and claims of dirty politics -- though none of it has dented New Zealand National Prime Minister John Key's chances of winning a third term in power. The predictions market puts 80% odds on a National prime minister after this Saturday's election."

Charles Pierce: "... can we please put a sock in the encomiums to [Ian] Paisley's late-in-life discovery that being a bigot and an enabler of terrorists was no longer a viable political position? ... The Paisleys were very strongly tied to Bob Jones University, the Christianist diploma mill in Greenville, South Carolina. Paisley was friends with Bob Jones himself.... His daughter, Rhonda, is a BJU grad.... Paisley was a terrorist by the very same standards that we applied to Anwar al Awlaki before we droned his ass."

News Ledes

Reuters: "Eight bodies, including those of three journalists, were found after an attack on a team trying to educate locals on the risks of the Ebola virus in a remote area of southeastern Guinea, a government spokesman said on Thursday."

New York Times: "The people of Scotland decide Thursday whether national pride outweighs economic risk.... Economists normally as ideologically disparate and disputatious as Alan Greenspan, Paul Krugman, Adam S. Posen and Niall Ferguson all have predicted a negative economic outlook for an independent Scotland, while expressing anxiety, too, about the impact of such uncertainty on the larger European and global economies."

... The front page of the Edinburgh Scotsman is here. The Guardian has a Scottish independence page here, with lots o'links.

     ... Update: The Guardian is now liveblogging the vote & results. The final poll before voting put the yes votes at 47 percent & the no at 53. ...

     ... Update 2: The Guardian has a new liveblog here. Still no final results (as of 7:45 pm ET).

Guardian: "Toronto mayor Rob Ford has a 'rare and difficult' form of cancer called malignant pleomorphic liposarcoma, doctors treating him at Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto announced on Wednesday." ...

     ... New York Update: Ford has endorsed his brother Doug for mayor.

Tuesday
Sep162014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 17, 2014

Megan Thee-Brenan of the New York Times: "A New York Times/CBS News poll shows that President Obama's approval ratings are similar to those of President George W. Bush in 2006 when Democrats swept both houses of Congress in the midterm elections. A deeply unpopular Republican Party is nonetheless gaining strength heading into the midterm elections, as the American public's frustration with Mr. Obama has manifested itself in low ratings for his handling of foreign policy and terrorism." CW: All the evidence you need that the U.S. public, in the aggregate, is deeply stupid and/or ignorant. For anecdotal evidence, look below for the views of a Kentucky ObamaCare beneficiary.

Slip 'n Slide. Jeremy Peters & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Tuesday that he would recommend deploying United States combat forces against Islamic extremists in specific operations if the current strategy of airstrikes was not successful, offering a more expansive view of the American role in the ground war than that of President Obama. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he said that while he was confident in the ability of the coalition of American, European and Middle Eastern governments to stop the Islamic State, he could not completely close the door to eventually asking Mr. Obama to commit ground troops to fight the group, known as ISIS or ISIL." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Craig Whitlock, is here. ...

... BUT. Justin Sink & Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "The White House and congressional Democrats on Tuesday pushed back against speculation that President Obama could order ground troops into Iraq, after the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said combat forces could fight Islamic militants. Gen. Martin Dempsey was 'referring to a hypothetical scenario in which there might be a future situation in which he might make a tactical recommendation to the president as it relates to ... the use of ground troops,' White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday." ...

... AND, as you read the details -- via Dana Milbank -- of how Dempsey's answer came about (hint: Lindsey "Be Afraid" Graham was his interrogator), the headlines look rather hyperbolic. ...

... ** Dana Milbank: "The sudden desire [among Republicans] for a ground war is a bit suspect, both because many Republicans adopted this view only after Obama came around to their previous view and because many Republicans oppose even the modest funding Obama has requested to train Syrian fighters." ...

... Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "As the Obama administration and the American public have focused their attention on ISIS in recent weeks, conservative groups and leading Republicans have issued stark warnings ... that ISIS and other extremists from Syria are planning to enter the country illegally from Mexico. But the Homeland Security Department, the F.B.I. and lawmakers who represent areas near the border say there is no truth to the warnings. 'There is no credible intelligence to suggest that there is an active plot by ISIL to attempt to cross the southern border,' Homeland Security officials said in a written statement, using an alternative acronym for the group." ...

... AND. Guns for Hire. Lee Fang of the Nation reminds us that many of the former generals & other "experts" who get on the teevee & directly or indirectly promote war against ISIS -- or whoever, what the hell -- "... have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world." Moreover, the listening public wouldn't know that because the media, both print & electronic, who invite & publish the opinions of these paid agitators, seldom reveal the opinionators' conflicts-of-interest. Thanks to safari for the link. ...

... Burgess Everett of Politico: "With the House expected to attach a Syria amendment to the government funding bill and pass the package on Wednesday, the Senate appears on track to vote on the legislation by Thursday and send senators home until November -- a recess key to the reelection chances of [Mitch] McConnell and a number of [Harry] Reid's vulnerable incumbent Democrats." ...

... ** Here's Juan Cole with rational, informed suggestions about what could work to degrade & contain ISIS & what would not -- the latter being the course the U.S. seems to be following. ...

... CW: Contrast the measured actions many experts suggest -- with actual explanations as to why a somewhat cautious makes sense -- with those of the war hawks, who fear-monger the public to gin up support for all-out war (see Michael Schmidt story & Dana Milbank's column linked above). John McCain, Lindsey Graham & other boosters aren't just stupid or dangerous or craven munitions-industry whores; they're anti-American.

Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "President Obama on Tuesday challenged world powers to ramp up the global response to the Ebola outbreak that is ravaging three West African countries, warning that unless health care workers, medical equipment and treatment centers are deployed quickly, the disease could take hundreds of thousands of lives":

... ** Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday said he has 'a few knuckleheads' in his conference. As a result, Boehner described his House majority as being a 'paper majority.' 'On any given day, 16 of my members decide they're going to go this way, and all the sudden I have nothing,' he said. 'You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference.'" Boehner was making a pitch for a bigger majority to neutralize the knuckleheads.

Lucy McCalmont of Politico: "Sen. Maria Cantwell said Tuesday that she will introduce legislation that will aim to strip the National Football League of its tax-exempt status.... The league is organized as a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization, and this status, as well as the other leagues who share it, has been the focus of Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn." CW: I'll be damned if I can see why there even is a 501(c)(6); which exempts from taxes "business leagues," including the NFL & chambers of commerce.

Mike Lillis of the Hill: "A pair of House lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday designed to de-militarize the nation's local police departments. Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) said the Pentagon's 1033 program, which arms local law enforcers with surplus military equipment, goes too far to put the tools of war onto America's streets." CW: I hate to say it, but this bill & Cantwell's will probably go nowhere.

The Word from the Snake Crude Oil Salesman: The reality is right now we've got an administration in the Obama administration that are science deniers when it comes to harnessing America's energy resources and potential to create good-paying jobs for our economy and for our future. Right now we've got an administration whose policies are holding our economy hostage. -- Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.)

... CW: I think maybe Republicans have a new I-Know-You-Are-But-What-Am-I strategy. Yesterday Flip-Flopper Rand Paul called President Obama a flip-flopper, & today evolution-dissembler Jindal is calling Obama a science denier (Jindal does not dispute man-made climate change; he says he just doesn't give a damn. [Jindal is "a Rhodes scholar who studied biology and public policy at Brown University). ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Betcha the authorities at New College, Oxford, are daily regretting the degree they bestowed upon this dude, who daily applies his intellectual gifts to the worst kind of yahooism." ...

... Charles Pierce on Bobby Jay's Keystone XL Kops Energy Plan: "Most of the energy in the plan is to get people talking about what a serious person Jindal is, and not to notice that his state is falling apart, his education plan there is a whopping side dish of theocratic corruption, and that his constituents would be bitterly divided should Jindal be eaten by alligators."

"You Can't Feed a Family with GDP." Neil Irwin of the New York Times: "There are a few sunnier points in [a new U.S. Census] report [on American income]. The poverty rate fell to 14.5 percent, from 15 percent. And as the White House Council of Economic Advisers points out, incomes rose a good bit more in 2013 for the median family -- that is households where people who are related live together -- than they did for the more widely cited measure of households, which includes singles and roommates.... But the new evidence that pay is stagnant for middle-income families strikes us as the most important thing contained in this report.... You can't eat G.D.P. You can't live in a rising stock market. You can't give your kids a better life because your company's C.E.O. was able to give himself a big raise."

The Twisted Ways of Tribalists. Nobody don't care for nobody no more, and I think [Obama]'s got a lot to do with that.... [I was] born and raised Republican. I ain't planning on changing now. -- a Kentucky woman who is "tickled to death" with her new healthcare coverage. She's voting for Mitch McConnell, who did everything in his power to keep her from getting the coverage.

CW: This woman would be more "dead" than "tickled" if her buddy Mitch had his way. Since she can't come up with a logical criticism of someone who made her life immeasurably easier & safer, she grasps for the "Everything Is Obama's Fault" formula: People "don't care for nobody no more" (even though "caring for people" is the explicit purpose of ObamaCare) ... because Obama. ...

PLUS This. William Finnegan of the New Yorker: "Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the Minority Leader, has voted seventeen times against raising the minimum wage; in April, he led a successful filibuster of the $10.10 bill." ...

... CW: The cradle-to-grave Republican woman cited above, who is voting for McConnell, earns $9 an hour. ...

... William Finnegan: The arguments against a fair minimum wage haven't changed much in a century, even though they have "a dismal record as a description of reality."

Unintended Consequence? Hobby Lobby Hobbles FBI. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Citing Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court's decision last June holding that the religious objections of a business' owners could trump federal rules requiring that business to include birth control coverage in its health plan, a federal judge in Utah held last week that a member of a polygamist religious sect could refuse to testify in a federal investigation into alleged violations of child labor laws because he objects to testifying on religious grounds." Judge David Sam, a Reagan appointee, "concludes based on a single paragraph of analysis that the federal government's efforts to obtain [the sect member]'s testimony is a 'substantial' burden on his faith." ...

... Scott Lemieux: "The Supreme Court just created a huge mess."

"Undue Burden." Jeff Toobin in the New Yorker: How the courts -- & Republican-led state legislatures -- are undoing former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's "most important triumph during her long and consequential tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court. Almost single-handedly, O'Connor rewrote abortion law."

Charles Pierce: Judges of the Seventh Circuit laugh Rand Paul's doctor friends right out of court. Pierce summarizes the doctors' legal argument: "'Your Honor, this law unfairly prejudices my clients because of actions they freely took in opposition to it.' It's like seeing the residents of Galt's Gulch appeal to the zoning board."

Vice President Joe Gaffe. Oliver Knox of Yahoo News: "Vice President Joe Biden drew fire from a prominent Jewish group on Tuesday after he described unscrupulous bankers who prey on servicemen and servicewomen deployed overseas as 'Shylocks' -- a term frequently condemned as an anti-Semitic caricature.... The vice president's office did not return a request for comment."

Jon Krawczynski of the AP: "After a day of public pressure from angry fans and concerned sponsors, the Minnesota Vikings have reversed course and placed star running back Adrian Peterson on the exempt-commissioner's permission list, a move that will require him to stay away from the team while he addresses child abuse charges in Texas....Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton [DFL], who spearheaded an effort to secure $477 million in public money to help build the team a new stadium, and Sen. Al Franken were among the many who called for the Vikings to reconsider their position." ...

... Michael Powell of the New York Times details the hypocrisy of pro football sponsors. Also, of NFL fans. ...

... Here's yesterday's Times story, by Ken Belson, on how sponsors & politicians are suddenly all upset about a specific instance of child abuse by an NFL player. ...

... CW: I'm sure the interested parties are calculating correctly that the whole NFL-players-are-abusive scandal is a momentary media phenomenon -- a TMZ story, after all -- & it will get lost in the fog of the next hoohah. Today's big news on TMZ: some actor who cried racism when the LAPD showed up was having sex in her car in the daylight in a public parking lot. Graphic grainy photos! And so it goes. In the meantime ...

... If you're a football fan who foregoes the viewing of violent sporting events for a whole week, tell us your story. I'll pay you in signed back issues of Reality Chex.

Susan Candiotti & Alan Duke of CNN: "The cardiac arrest leading to Joan Rivers' death happened as the comedian's personal doctor began performing a biopsy on her vocal cords, a source close to the death investigation told CNN." Rivers had not authorized the doctor to perform the biopsy, & the doctor was not certified to perform surgery at the clinic. The doctor took a selfie while Rivers was anesthetized. He has not been publicly IDed. "Investigators believe that Rivers' vocal chords began to swell during the allegedly unauthorized biopsy, cutting off the flow of oxygen to her lungs, which led to cardiac arrest on the morning of August 29, the source said."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Steve Benen on Fox "News"'s coverage of Benghaaaazi! In 20 months, the network aired 1,110 segments on the story. Benen notes that obsession with a particular topic isn't necessarily a bad thing -- that's often how dogged reporters break important news. BUT. "... Fox produced no scoops. It aired no new revelations of import. It didn't increase the public's understanding of the Benghazi attack in any meaningful or substantive way. On the contrary, many of the segments arguably did the exact opposite: the network aired 100 segments -- including 43 just from Sean Hannity -- 'promoting the lie that the administration issued a "stand-down order."'"

Senate Race

John Hanna of the AP: "Several Kansas Supreme Court justices expressed skepticism Tuesday about a Republican official's decision to keep the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate on the ballot against his wishes as they reviewed a legal dispute that could affect the national fight for control of the Senate. During arguments before the court, justices focused on whether a formal letter from Democrat Chad Taylor to withdraw from the race required Secretary of State Kris Kobach to remove Taylor's name from the Nov. 4 ballot. Some Democrats nudged Taylor out of the race because they see independent candidate Greg Orman as the stronger rival to three-term Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts.... Four justices -- a majority for the seven member court -- were appointed by former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.... Two others were appointed by Sebelius' predecessor, former moderate GOP Gov. Bill Graves." (A 7th seat is open.) ...

... Here's Bryan Lowry's report for the Wichita Eagle. ...

... OR, if you've got an hour, you can watch the oral arguments yourself:

Beyond the Beltway

Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Most voters who have already returned absentee ballots will have to provide their local clerks with copies of photo identification -- as will thousands of others who have received absentee ballots but not yet submitted them. Kevin Kennedy, the head of the agency that runs state elections, said new steps are being put in place to contact such voters after a Friday ruling by an appeals court that reinstated Wisconsin's long-stalled voter ID law." CW: I'm not too sure this clusterfuck is actually going to help Republicans. Plus, let's see what happens here:

... Also Tuesday, the groups challenging the voter ID law said they would ask the full, 10-member 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse Friday's decision. Friday's order came from a three-judge panel.

     ... CW: I understand en banc re-hearings are unusual, but changing the rules within weeks of an election is mighty unusual -- Rick Hasen wrote the other day that the U.S. Supremes had declared last minutes "new rules" unconstitutional.

News Lede

AP: "Islamic State fighters shot down a Syrian war plane using anti-aircraft guns on Tuesday, the first time the group has downed a military jet since declaring its cross-border caliphate in June, a group monitoring the civil war said."

Monday
Sep152014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 16, 2014

Martin Matishak & Rebecca Shabad of the Hill: "House Republicans expect to unveil legislation Monday evening that would give President Obama the authority to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels, but with some limits on that authority. The House Armed Services Committee is drafting the bill in consultation with the administration. It is expected to take the form of an amendment to a stopgap-spending bill that would keep the government funded through Dec. 11, according to a senior committee aide. Votes on the spending bill and the Syrian aid could come as soon as Wednesday."

Maggie Severns of Politico: "The House passed a bill to overhaul child care for low-income families Monday, and it will likely become law before the end of the year. Lobbyists and advocates say they didn’t expect the House and Senate, which passed its version of the bill earlier this year, to successfully broker the child care deal during this Congress. But with legislators on both sides of the aisle eager to score points during an election and high-profile education lawmakers retiring at the end of this Congress, legislators managed to strike a deal they announced Friday."

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Senate Republicans rejected a measure written by Senate Democrats aimed at bridging differences in pay between men and women. The Paycheck Fairness Act fell short 52-40, failing to clear a 60-vote procedural vote hurdle on Monday evening, the third time the measure has failed since spring of 2012."

Jacob Fischler of BuzzFeed: "Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff will introduce a bill Tuesday that provides direct authorization to fight ISIS while also sunsetting the two laws the administration has used to justify current efforts against the militants.... Regardless of whether a new AUMF is passed, President Obama has said he has all the authority needed to fight ISIS right now from the 2001 and 2002 AUMF laws. It’s a justification that’s drawn some criticism — from those who question whether ISIS is covered under the 2001 AUMF at all, to others who note that Obama once vowed to repeal the 2001 AUMF and is now using it to justify this new campaign." Via Paul Waldman.

Helene Cooper, et al., of the New York Times: "Under pressure to do more to confront the Ebola outbreak sweeping across West Africa, President Obama on Tuesday is to announce an expansion of military and medical resources to combat the spread of the deadly virus, administration officials said.... Mr. Obama will offer help to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia in the construction of as many as 17 Ebola treatment centers in the region, with about 1,700 treatment beds.... Officials said the military expected to send as many as 3,000 people to Africa to take charge of responding to the Ebola outbreak."

Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration is preparing to introduce major steps to phase out production of a popular chemical coolant used in refrigerators and air conditioners, citing growing evidence that the substance is contributing to the warming of the planet. The White House will announce on Tuesday a series of voluntary commitments by some of the country’s largest chemical firms and retailers to move rapidly away from R-134a and similar compounds used in nearly every office, home and automobile in the country...."

David Siegel in a Hill opinion piece: "The planned response to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as presented by the president on Sept. 10, places too much emphasis on military force.... There is a substantial constituency in both countries that views ISIS as preferable to its alternatives and offers the group either tacit or material support. Without this support, ISIS is a collection of terrorists with arms inferior to those of local militaries which has nowhere to hide and no promise of significant expansion. With this support it is a de facto state. The distinction between a nongovernmental actor and one that holds territory like a state is crucial." Siegel suggests a path forward, using "concrete incentives [CW: cash!] to turn [popular support] support away from" ISIS.

Sen. Flip-Flop Flip-Flops on His Flip-flops. Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Sen. Rand Paul on Monday pushed back against heightened criticism (link fixed) that he has flip-flopped on foreign policy issues, saying he has stood firmly against the Obama administration’s policies in Syria. Appearing on CBS 'This Morning,' the Kentucky Republican conceded that he has shifted his views in some areas, including on what is an appropriate U.S. response to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. 'As world events change, obviously you change your analysis. Five years ago, ISIS wasn’t a threat,' he said, using an alternate name for the terrorist group that has mobilized across much of northern and central Iraq.... The Washington Post on Sunday documented Paul’s evolution on several issues, including airstrikes against ISIL targets. The report came a month after a similar Politico report noted some of Paul’s policy shifts on several issues, from immigration to Guantánamo Bay prison." CW: I guess Li'l Randy found out about videotape. Up till now his tack has been to deny having taken positions he had taken in the not-so-distant past.

Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Former President Bill Clinton says he agrees that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is 'not the guy' for a peace deal. A C-SPAN video — first reported by Israeli newspaper Haaretz — shows the 42nd president at Sen. Tom Harkin’s Iowa steak fry on Sunday speaking with an individual along a rope line. 'If we don’t force him to make peace, we will not have peace,' the man told Clinton in the video. 'First of all, I agree with that,' Clinton responded, before discussing the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts he brokered during his administration. 'But Netanyahu is not the guy,' the unnamed person told Clinton, cutting in. 'I agree with that,' Clinton responded." ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York doesn't think Bill Clinton is a political genius. CW: I think Chait is being a little unfair: he's citing as evidence some offhand remarks Clinton made at a steak fry, remarks that it is true don't demonstrate genius, but weren't wrong, either. Clinton's "genius" is more visceral than intellectual (though he really does have a tremendous command of policy). Clinton wants you to like him & agree with him, & he knows how to get you to like & agree, at least momentarily. I have repeatedly found myself in his thrall, only to rethink an issue later & realize (a) he had masterfully manipulated me, & (b) I felt a little dirty.

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "After a generation of campaigns in which Republicans exploited wedge issues to win close elections, Democrats are now on the offensive in the culture wars. Democrats see social issues as potent for the same reasons Republicans once did, using them as a tool to both stoke concerns among moderate voters, especially women, and motivate their base." Relevant factoid: "When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, white voters without a college degree made up 65 percent of the electorate; by 2012, that number had dropped to 36 percent."

Jennifer Haberkorn & Burgess Everett of Politico: "There are widespread instances of Obamacare insurance plans violating the rigid rules surrounding whether customers can use federal health care subsidies on insurance policies that cover abortion procedures, according to a Government Accountability Office investigation. The report, commissioned by House Republican leadership and obtained by Politico on Monday night, found that 15 insurers in a sample of 18 are selling Obamacare plans that do not segregate funds to cover abortion (except in cases of rape, incest or the mother’s life) from their Obamacare subsidies.... The report’s release is likely to elicit new election-year attacks on congressional Democrats from anti-abortion groups and Republicans who warned that Obamacare would allow for taxpayer subsidized abortions." ...

     ... CW: Somebody might tell those shocked anti-abortion fanatics that this is capitalism at work. No doubt the insurance companies find it cheaper to pay for a few abortions than to process hundreds of thousands of duplicate payments. The cheapest way to handle this is probably for insurance companies to increase the co-pay for the abortion procedure to match what the individual's contribution would have been under the law.

Nick Anderson of the Washington Post: "Ohio State University has agreed to several steps to strengthen its policies on sexual assault and harassment, the federal government said, concluding a four-year civil rights investigation at one of the nation’s largest public universities.... The resolution will remove Ohio State from a list of 79 colleges and universities under federal investigations related to their handling of sexual violence reports." ...

... Allie Jones of Gawker: "On his show [Monday], Rush Limbaugh decried Ohio State's new policy instructing students to get explicit, verbal consent before having sex, because 'no means yes if you know how to spot it.'"

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Charles Pierce, in the context of Ken Burns' "The Roosevelts," highlights a speech from the last Gilded Age by early-20th-century progressive Sen. Bob LaFollette (Wisc.) to magazine & newspaper publishers. "Now, as we are in the second gilded age, one that camouflages effectively all it has in common with the first one, we should all be wary of that spirit as consumers of the political news brought to us mainly by even larger and more powerful -- and more heavily concentrated -- corporate enterprises. In related news: Hillary Clinton has all but wrapped up the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Everybody says so."

Beyonce. This is an exhibitionist, not a feminist.The New Republic decides to highlight feminist issues by pitting two feminists & TNR senior editors -- Judith Shulevitz & Rebecca Traister -- against each other. CW: Traister & Shulevitz should not have been foolish enough to fall for the "bitches bickering" format. 

"We're just being a little more honest than you guys." Harvey Levin of TMZ explains to Howie Kurtz of Fox "News" how Fox "News" -- & all other major media outlets -- work. Via Driftglass, who finds Kurtz's question/assertion & Levin's putdown hilarious:

Tom Raum of the AP: "The National Labor Relations Board ruled against the CNN cable television network on Monday in an 11-year-old labor dispute, ordering the network to rehire or compensate about 300 former workers. The NLRB agreed with a November 2008 ruling by one of its administrative judges that CNN improperly replaced a unionized subcontractor, Team Video Services (TVS), with in-house non-union staffers, claiming 'anti-union' bias."

Senate Races

Nate Silver: "When we officially launched our forecast model two weeks ago, it had Republicans with a 64 percent chance of taking over the Senate after this fall’s elections. Now Republican chances are about 55 percent instead.... Whatever the reason, the GOP’s path to a Senate majority is less robust than before.

The Kansas Supreme Court will live-video oral arguments in the case re: the state's U.S. Senate ballot beginning at 9:45 am ET today. The case, styled Taylor v. Kobach, pits Chad Taylor, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, against Kris Kobach, the righty-right Secretary of State & a co-chair of incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts' (R) re-election campaign. Taylor asked to be removed from the ballot within the legally-specified time-frame, but did not state in his request that he was "incapable" of filling the position. Taylor's removal would help the independent candidate Greg Orman. Kobach, whose deputy of elections guided Taylor in the writing of the withdrawal request, according to Taylor, has refused to remove Taylor from the ballot. Each side will be allotted 20 minutes to present arguments, according to Rick Hasen.

Beyond the Beltway

Jason Stein & Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Local clerks and state elections officials are putting their absentee ballot mailings on hold as they hustle to reinstate Wisconsin's photo ID requirement for voters in the wake of Friday's federal appeals court decision. University of Wisconsin-Madison officials are also analyzing the decision and considering whether to begin issuing ID cards that could be used for voting. While some student IDs can be used for voting, the ones issued at UW-Madison and some other schools cannot."

Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "Texas has proposed re-writing school text books to incorporate passages denying the existence of climate change and promoting the discredited views of an ultra-conservative think tank [CW: propaganda mill]. The proposed text books – which come up for public hearing at the Texas state board of education on Tuesday – were already attracting criticism when it emerged that the science section had been altered to reflect the doctrine of the Heartland Institute, which has been funded by the Koch oil billionaires."

Sunday
Sep142014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 15, 2014

Steve M. has two excellent post's -- here and here -- comparing Fox "News"'s "reporting" on the reactions of President Obama & British PM David Cameron (Friend ofRupert ) to the beheading of their citizens by ISIS terrorists. ...

... Manu Raju, et al., of the Politico on the extraordinary efforts President Obama, Vice President Biden & Congressional leaders are making to get Congressional authorization to provide support to Syrian rebels. "What prompted the developments, a White House official said, were high-level discussions with Syria's neighbors about 'cooperating and hosting' a program to train and equip the rebels since the president first requested the change in the law back in June. 'We were finally able to secure high-level Saudi commitments to host the program during [national security advisor] Lisa Monaco's meetings on Sunday,' [a White House] official said." ...

... Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "Several Arab countries have offered to carry out airstrikes against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, senior State Department officials said Sunday. The offer was disclosed by American officials traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry, who is approaching the end of a weeklong trip that was intended to mobilize international support for the campaign against ISIS."

Katie Glueck of Politico: "White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said on Sunday the administration 'didn't threaten' with prosecution the families of two American journalists slain by an extremist group, as the families have alleged. Families of journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley have ... [said] the federal government ... threatened prosecution. 'In terms of what was communicated to the families, in the midst of many, many meetings over the course of this very difficult circumstance, we obviously made clear what the law is,' McDonough said on 'Fox News Sunday.' ... As a father, McDonough said, he personally feels deeply for the families and the 'very difficult circumstances' they are experiencing."

** E. J. Dionne on the Congressional debates preceding the first U.S.-Iraq War. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) "proposes a two-step process involving, first, quick congressional approval of Obama's proposal to train and arm Syrian rebels, and then broader debate about the president's overall policy after the country votes on Nov. 4." CW: Something I forgot: "Without congressional authorization, Bush had already sent 500,000 U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia to prepare for war. He insisted he did not need Congress's approval to put them into action. His request for a resolution was essentially a courtesy. It came just a week before the deadline he had set for Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait -- and, as it happened, just nine days before the war started [on January 17, 1991]. ...

... Here, BTW, is Bush I's Secretary of State James Baker, speaking on "Meet the Press" Sunday:

... Martin Longman of the Washington Monthly on "bedwetter" Sen. Lindsay's Graham's [R-S.C.] claim that Americans "will be killed here at home" if President Obama is allowed to follow his "disingenuous & delusional" plan to degrade ISIS: "There really in no excuse for a 59 year old man to not be housebroken. The idea that we are all going to get killed if the president doesn't immediately send ground troops to Iraq and Syria is the intellectual equivalent of having night terrors about monsters in your closet and under your bed."

Ari Berman of the Nation: "Late Friday afternoon, a panel of Democrat-appointed judges on the Sixth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction from a Democrat-appointed district court judge striking down Ohio's cuts to early voting. Two hours earlier, however, a trio of Republican-appointed judges on the Seventh Circuit overturned an injunction from a Democratic judge blocking Wisconsin's voter ID law. This is why elections matter. And the courts are increasingly becoming the arbiters of who does and does not get to participate in them." (Emphasis added.) ...

     ... Rick Hasen: The Wisconsin decision "is a big, big mistake for election administration reasons (regardless of how the court ultimately comes out) and I expect now an emergency motion to the Supreme Court, based upon Purcell v. Gonzalez, to stop this change. I think there's a decent chance the Supreme Court could intervene on this, even if the Court ultimately is likely to reject the constitutional and Voting Rights Act challenges to this ruling." (See also Hasen's comments to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, linked in Saturday's Commentariat.) ...

... Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Democrats have reversed the partisan imbalance on the federal appeals courts that long favored conservatives, a little-noticed shift with far-reaching consequences for the law and President Obama's legacy. For the first time in more than a decade, judges appointed by Democratic presidents considerably outnumber judges appointed by Republican presidents. The Democrats' advantage has only grown since late last year when they stripped Republicans of their ability to filibuster the president's nominees.... With control of the Senate at stake in November's midterm elections, the success of Democrats in reshaping the courts is a reminder of the subtle power that the majority party has even in a moribund Congress."

Jonathan Chait takes exception with Thomas Frank's "polemic" against political science (linked here yesterday): "He argues that political science has always run Washington and that political science is the main problem with Washington. Frank is tellingly wrong on all these things, but in one way he is dead-on: He has correctly identified the field of political science as the true enemy of his worldview." ...

... CW: For what it's worth, I think Chait's analysis of reasons for the 1994 election results is off-base, too. What really shifted the balance of power -- and it was a decades-long shift that's still ongoing -- was civil rights legislation & "liberal" court decisions of the 1950s, '60s & '70s. The majority of people are inherently conservative, selfish & miserly. These selfish people are "liberal" only when they belong to a group that the majority has excluded or disadvantaged; i.e., when it's in their self-interest to vote "liberal." And they are tribal. Conservative Roman Catholics voted for Jack Kennedy. Conservative Southerners voted for Jimmy Carter. Once. Barack Obama won in 2008 because of the confluence of extraordinary circumstances: (a) of the financial crisis, & (b) a singularly unappealing Republican opponent (& his Hillbilly sidekick), & (c) the unpopularity of Dubya's actions, not the least of which was starting the Iraq War. Obama won in 2012 because -- voters are conservative: they (fairly narrowly) danced with the one that brung 'em. One might argue that the outlier in this pattern was Bill Clinton (the guy Frank criticizes for moving Democrats to the right), but even that isn't true. Besides pulling down a good deal of the tribal Southern vote, Clinton got a tremendous assist from crazy Ross Perot, who directly appealed to people's selfish tendencies. The sitting president, George H. W. Bush, had two strikes against him.

NEW. Charles Pierce comments, in hilarious fashion, on the contretemps over the remains of Saint-in-Waiting & Dead TeeVee Personality Fulton Sheen.

Isla Bennie of Reuters: "Pope Francis married 20 couples on Sunday, some of whom had already lived together and had children, in the latest sign that the Argentine pontiff wants the Catholic church to be more open and inclusive."

Paul Krugman: "Clearly, economics as a discipline went badly astray in the years -- actually decades -- leading up to the [2008 economic] crisis. But the failings of economics were greatly aggravated by the sins of economists, who far too often let partisanship or personal self-aggrandizement trump their professionalism. Last but not least, economic policy makers systematically chose to hear only what they wanted to hear. And it is this multilevel failure -- not the inadequacy of economics alone -- that accounts for the terrible performance of Western economies since 2008."

Mike Florio of NBC Sports: "According to multiple [National Football L]eague sources, [Ray] Rice will appeal the indefinite suspension on Monday. The appeal will be handled by the NFLPA and by an outside lawyer retained by Rice."

Martin Longman on Rep. Mark Sanford's Facebook break-up with his fiancée Maria Belen Chapur: "... one does wonder how awful a Republican would have to behave to get kicked out of office in the Palmetto State."

In the interest of fair, both-sides linking, here is the Palin family's version of the infamous Saturday night brawl, according to "a source close to the Palin family," via Scott Conroy of Real Clear Politicis. CW: It sure took a long time for the Palins to come up with their spin on this yarn, which goes like this: a former boyfriend of Willow's started the fight; he tried to get into the Palins' stretch Hummer, & a gang of four men -- including the boyfriend -- attacked Track, who ended up with four cracked ribs. Todd joined the melee & the gang of meanies bloodied him. Sarah, "in full mama grizzly mode," yelled, "Don't you know who he is? He's a vet!" Also, Bristol couldn't have a "mean right hook" because she's left-handed. Definitely need that video. ...

... NEW. Jeanne Devon of the Mudflats weighs in, adding some details & lots of context. Thanks to James S. for the link. AND to Devon for her swell effort to re-construct the scene:

Capitalism Is Awesome. Jessica Roy of New York: "Urban Outfitters, the official clothing store of Outrage Twitter, reached a new low yesterday when shoppers noticed that the site was selling a 'vintage' Kent State sweatshirt, complete with blood spatter. The Ohio university was the site of the 1970 Kent State shooting, when the Ohio National Guard killed four students during a peace protest." Do read on. (CW: Clicking on the link to the e-bay auction page for the sweatshirt doesn't work. Maybe somebody had a change of heart.)

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

T. Bogg: "America's Most Annoying Neighborhood Kid™, Luke Russert, tried out and made NBC;s Meet the Press team this week.... Friday, Chuck 'Figure It Out For Yourself' Todd emailed his NBC/MSNBC colleagues excitedly announcing that young master Luke would be joining the MTP cast -- which, as I am sure you are aware and will be made aware no matter how much you try to avoid it -- where Luke's father [editors note to nerds: not Darth Vader] used to totally rule. It's just like The Lion King, but with self-important large-headed people instead of adorable cartoon lions and meerkats." ...

... T. Bogg helpfully provides Simba's MTP "audition tape":

Evan McMurry of Mediaite: "In his new guise as a political commentator for CNN, former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dished out conventional wisdom on State of the Union Sunday morning, which in this case meant diagnosing the Democrats' chances in the upcoming midterms as poor."

Congressional Elections, Etc.

I've studied all the polls and I really believe that we're still in a zone where they're all real close and it depends on who decides to show. And our side's not used to voting in midterms. We gotta get used to it. There's a lot at stake. -- Bill Clinton, in Iowa yesterday

... Greg Sargent on Senate race polling/odds: "The Washington Post and New York Times forecasts have tightened considerably, with the WaPo Election Lab showing the GOP with a 50 percent chance of taking the Senate and the NYT Upshot putting it at 52 percent. FiveThirtyEight gives the GOP a 58 percent chance, but the poll-focused models run by Sam Wang and HuffPollster give Dems roughly the same-sized edge.... CNN will release a poll today that finds the New Hampshire battle between Dem Senator Jeanne Shaheen and GOP challenger Scott Brown is all tied up at 48-48. However, Reid Wilson reports that the DSCC will release a poll showing Shaheen up by 51-43."

Kentucky Democratic nominee Alison Grimes is running against Mitch McConnell AND Barack Obama. It's a good ad:

** Arizona GOP Leader Would Sterilize Poor People. Resigns over Controversy. Yvonne Sanchez of the Arizona Republic: "Former [state] Sen. Russell Pearce, who has recently served as the Arizona Republican Party's first vice chair, resigned his post late Sunday in the wake of criticism from powerful GOP candidates about contraception.... Pearce [spoke on] his talk-radio program on KKNT 960 AM [recently] ... about changes he would make to the state's public assistance programs and was quoted in the Democratic Party's news release as saying: 'You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I'd do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations.... Then we'll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.' In his [resignation] statement, Pearce wrote that during [the] recent radio show ... he 'shared comments written by someone else and failed to attribute them to the author.' ... Pearce, best known for his role in passing the state's hard-line immigration law Senate Bill 1070, served as Arizona Senate president before he was recalled in 2011." CW: Ah, well. He's just an accidental plagiarist. He's not really into sterilizing the poor; he just promotes the idea. And congrats to GOP candidates for condemning his remarks -- after Democrats highlighted their silence on Pearce's policy proposal/"mistake."

Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald: Fielding criticism about "a cigar-smoking boys-only 'roundtable' he held," Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), in a tight race against Democrat Gwen Graham, "wondered why the press isn't asking ... Graham about whether she ever attended a ladies-only 'lingerie shower.' ... Paging Dr. Freud." Via Steve Benen.

John Eligon of the New York Times: "Although every statewide elected official in Kansas is a Republican and President Obama lost the state by more than 20 points in the last election, [Gov. Sam] Brownback's proudly conservative policies have turned out to be so divisive and his tax cuts have generated such a drop in state revenue that they have caused even many Republicans to revolt."

Presidential Election

Amy Chozick & Jonathan Martin: Hillary & Bill Clinton go to Tom Harkin's steak fry. CW: Like déjà vu all over again. Pretty depressing. ...

... Roger Simon of Politico: "'Hello, Iowa!' says Hillary Clinton, who has not set foot in Iowa for six years and eight months, and in fact, until quite recently has loathed the place. She cautiously enunciates each word from her prepared text, even the jokes. She is careful, modulated, meticulous. She is Hillary."CW: It seems that Roger saw a different show from the one Amy & Jonathan were watching. The NYT reporters characterize Bill Clinton as dominating the event; Simon sez just the opposite. But then that might be expected, given that ...

NEW. There were more than a hundred reporters, camera-people, a human centipede of boom microphones waiting by a chain link fence, waiting for Hillary Clinton to grill a steak. Yes, Hillary Clinton and dead meat. The conventional wisdom at the moment is that the Democratic presidential field for 2016 is pretty much the same thing. -- Charles Pierce (Read the whole post.)

... Benjamin Bell of ABC News: "Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be headlining Sen. Tom Harkin's annual Steak Fry today, but the longtime progressive senator indicated that shouldn't be taken as an endorsement should she decide to run for president in 2016. Harkin, who is retiring after 30 years in the Senate and was hosting his last annual Steak Fry today, said progressives should raise questions about Clinton's foreign policy and economic positions."

Arit John of the Atlantic: "During a talk with the New Hampshire chapter of Generation Opportunity (a millennial-focused group best known for using a creepy Uncle Sam mascot to convince people not to enroll in Obamacare) a young man asked [Sen. Rand] Paul if he would repeal any executive orders. 'I think the first executive order that I would issue would be to repeal all previous executive orders,' Paul said, according to Breitbart.... [This left] "the impression that ... Paul ... would want to repeal all executive orders as president, probably because he said that he would repeal all executive orders if he was president. But as a Paul aide told The Huffington Post, the senator didn't mean to be taken at his word." ...

... Steve Benen: "By one account, Paul's vow to repeal all previous executive orders was met with 'booming cheers' from his conservative audience." ...

... CW Translation/Explanation of Paul's, Aide's Remarks: Paul was addressing a fringe group in the first state to hold a presidential primary. Naturally, he told the wackos what they wanted to hear. It isn't lying. It's retail politics. ...

... Benen, Ctd.: "It's worth noting that executive orders have been issued to advance some worthy causes over the years. The Emancipation Proclamation, for example, was one of Lincoln's executive orders. Truman ended racial discrimination in the military through an executive order. Ford banned political assassinations through an executive order."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Glenn Greenwald & Ryan Gallagher of the Intercept: "The New Zealand spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), worked in 2012 and 2013 to implement a mass metadata surveillance system even as top government officials publicly insisted no such program was being planned and would not be legally permitted. Documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the government worked in secret to exploit a new internet surveillance law enacted in the wake of revelations of illegal domestic spying to initiate a new metadata collection program that appeared designed to collect information about the communications of New Zealanders. Those actions are in direct conflict with the assurances given to the public by Prime Minister John Key..., who said the law was merely designed to fix 'an ambiguous legal framework.'..." ...

... Edward Snowden, in the Intercept: "... any statement that mass surveillance is not performed in New Zealand, or that the internet communications are not comprehensively intercepted and monitored, or that this is not intentionally and actively abetted by the GCSB, is categorically false." ...

... Philip Dorling of the Sydney Morning Herald: "The latest disclosures from top secret documents leaked by Mr Snowden come in the context of the final stages of New Zealand's election campaign where New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has been under pressure to explain the extent of GCSB's surveillance activities. On Sunday Mr Key stridently attacked US journalist Glen[n] Greenwald." ...

... Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald: "Snowden ... appeared by video link before a capacity crowd at the Kim Dotcom organised Moment of Truth event at Auckland Town Hall this evening.... Visiting US journalist Glen[n] Greenwald who has made the same claims and who introduced Snowden to the audience of about 1700.... Snowden began his talk with the claim the NSA had a facility in Auckland and went on to expand on his article in which he said: 'If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched.' ... Information about New Zealand communications was available [to the NSA] simply by clicking on a check box in [NSA] software [called XKEYSTROKE]. This evening to huge cheers he told the audience that if political leaders were 'going to use check boxes against us... election time is when we get to check boxes about them.''' ...

... CW: So now Eddie is explicitly working to bring down the government of a U.S. ally. Okay. ...

... Key & Dotcom have a history.

Nicholas Watt, et al., of the Guardian: The Queen [of England & Scotland! & Other Places] made a rare intervention on the political stage when she expressed the hope that voters will 'think very carefully about the future' before the Scottish independence referendum on Thursday. As [British PM] David Cameron prepares to issue a warning in Scotland that a vote for independence will lead to a permanent split from the UK, campaigners for the union welcomed the Queen's remarks.... The comments by the Queen came as she left Crathie Kirk near her Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire after the Sunday morning service. The Queen told a well-wisher: 'Well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future.'" ...

... Telegraph: "Most polls show a small lead for No, but opinion has shifted sharply in the past month, and twice in the past fortnight pollsters have put Yes ahead."